2013 MLB Free Agency: 6 Sleeper Free Agents Who Offer the Most Value
Players like Marco Scutaro and Delmon Young will be able to parlay strong playoff performances into salary gold. Others, such as Cabrera, will have to hope a team can see their inherent value and offer them a decent deal.
Here are six sleeper free agents who could bring their new teams a significant amount of value.
Kelly Shoppach: C
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One potential sleeper in the MLB free-agent market this offseason is Kelly Shoppach.
The 32-year-old journeyman backstop split his time in 2012 with the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox. He played mostly a backup role for both teams—hitting .233 with eight home runs and 27 RBI.
A team looking to bring in a trusted veteran who can fill in occasionally for a younger player might find value in taking a shot at Shoppach.
One possible destination could be the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review believes the Pirates will be looking for free-agent catching help.
A move by the Pirates to sign Shoppach would make a lot of sense, as they have only one catcher, Michael McKenry, under contract for the 2013 season. He should also come much cheaper than the expected $10 million a year or so it would take to sign a player like A.J. Pierzynski.
A player like Shoppach could prove to be a real sleeper if he can replicate his career .732 OPS and rediscover the power stroke that led to 21 home runs with the Cleveland Indians in 2008.
Ryan Madson: CP
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One potential sleeper free agent is closer Ryan Madson.
The 32-year-old right-hander missed all of the 2012 season because of an arm injury. He had a strong season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, when he saved 32 games and recorded a 2.37 ERA. Madson signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds last fall.
If Madson can successfully return from Tommy John surgery, he could bring a lot of value to a team looking for a back-end arm. Madson's agent, Scott Boras, told Bob Brookover of Philly.com that his client is looking for a closer's role.
Madson has been one of the best relievers in the game when healthy. Several power pitchers (John Smoltz, Jason Isringhausen) have successfully recovered from the same reconstructive procedure that Madson has undergone. Therefore, a team willing to take a chance could ultimately find a gem.
Kevin Correia: SP
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A potential free-agent sleeper this offseason could be Kevin Correia.
The 32-year-old right-hander was consistent for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, going 12-11 with a 4.21 ERA in 28 starts. His best season came in 2011, when he made the All-Star team and finished with a 12-11 record.
You pretty much know what you are going to get from Correia—an adequate arm who will net you 11-to-12 wins a season with somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 innings pitched.
CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman believes that Correia will net a deal somewhere in the two-year, $14 million area.
He is not a top-of-the-rotation guy, but could help out a team, such as Baltimore, that is looking to fill the Nos. 4 or 5 slots with a cheap option.
Shaun Marcum: SP
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A potential free-agent pitching find could be Shaun Marcum.
The 30-year-old Missouri native went 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 21 starts with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012.
One possible destination for Marcum could be a familiar one, the Toronto Blue Jays. According to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, the Blue Jays have looked into bringing back Marcum. He pitched for the Blue Jays from 2005 through 2010 and was 37-25 with a 3.85 ERA there.
He was traded to the Brewers after the 2010 season for Brett Lawrie.
Marcum is the type of pitcher who will give you 200 innings and 150 strikeouts (200.2 IP, 158 K in 2011) when healthy. Not a bad option for a team looking for a high-risk/high-reward answer to the back end of its rotation.
Jeremy Guthrie: SP
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One potential free-agent steal could be Jeremy Guthrie.
The 33-year-old veteran has pitched for four teams in his nine-year career. He split the 2012 season pitching for the Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Royals, posting an 8-12 record with a 4.76 ERA in 29 starts.
Guthrie has pitched an average of 208 innings per year over a career spanning nine seasons. However, his consistency hasn't always translated to success; he led the majors with 17 losses in both 2009 and 2011.
One caveat to those numbers could be that Guthrie has pitched on bad teams, as he compiled each 17-loss season with the once-woeful Baltimore Orioles.
CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman predicts that Guthrie could command a three-year, $27 million contract.
A team such as the New York Yankees or Chicago White Sox could potentially see Guthrie as a back-of-the-rotation arm.
Melky Cabrera: LF
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Could Melky Cabrera be the "sleeper to end all sleepers" in this year's free-agent class?
The 28-year-old was on the verge of becoming a household name in 2012 until his season—and quite possibly his career—was derailed due to a positive PED test. Cabrera wound up sitting out the rest of the 2012 season and subsequent World Series-championship run with the San Francisco Giants.
Teams will have to decide whether or not to take a chance on a player who has amassed 360 hits in a little more than a season and a half of play.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com believes Cabrera could come relatively cheap, as he expects him to command somewhere around $8 million per year.
Cabrera will prove to be the ultimate sleeper if he comes back next season and replicates his 2012 pre-suspension numbers, when he batted .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBI in 113 games.